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Columbia Business School Essay Topic Analysis 2013-2014

Following up on last week’s release of Columbia Business School’s 2013-2014 essay questions, we wanted to provide aspiring CBS students with some guidance on how to approach this aspect of their application.  While the school has made some changes to their essays, the questions continue to reflect an interest in learning about applicants’ career goals and personal backgrounds, as well as their reasons for applying to Columbia.  Let’s take a closer look at each essay:

Short Answer: What is your immediate post-MBA professional goal?  (100 characters maximum)

Making an appearance on the CBS application form for the third year in a row, this question asks applicants to speak directly about the job they wish to have upon graduating from business school.  The adcom has provided several sample answers to give applicants an idea of the kind of response that is expected.  While this question had a 200-character limit last year, this year’s applicants have only 100 characters—about 15 words—in which to answer the question.  Given this strict limit, you’ll want to clearly and concisely describe your short-term goal, making sure that it aligns with what you write in Essay 1.

Essay 1: Given your individual background, why are you pursuing a Columbia MBA at this time?  (500 words maximum)

A fairly standard business school essay, this question calls for applicants to explain their reasons for applying to Columbia in light of their career and personal histories.  This will likely involve outlining your work experience to show the adcom both how you have been inspired to pursue an MBA and how you are at a natural breaking point in your career.  While the question does not directly call for it, a brief explanation of your short-term and long-term career goals would be an appropriate way to bolster your justification for applying to business school.  In addition, the specific reference to Columbia means that the adcom is looking for applicants to showcase their knowledge of the school’s MBA program.  Because people applying to Columbia are often also considering other first-tier schools like Wharton, Chicago Booth, and NYU Stern, it’s especially important for you to convince the Columbia adcom of your primary interest in their program by packing your essay full of school-specific details about classes and clubs.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities—whether through a campus visit, conversations with current students, or reading Clear Admit’s Columbia School Guide—will pay dividends here.

Essay 2: Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital – Manhattan.  How do you anticipate that New York City will impact your experience at Columbia?  (250 words maximum)

Please view the videos below:

New York City – limitless possibilities

New York City – fast paced and adaptable

In this essay, after watching two videos about the impact of Columbia’s location on students’ education, applicants are asked to comment on how being in New York City might affect their own business school experience.  While a wide range of answers could apply here, the key to crafting an effective response is to be specific.  Rather than surface-level comments such as “New York City has great investment banking resources,” or “New York City is very international,” you’ll want to explain how you would take advantage of those particular offerings.  For example, perhaps you would help the investment banking club organize visits to local firms, or invite your cluster-mates to cultural events at nearby museums.  Showing yourself as someone who takes the initiative to actively engage in your surroundings will add strength to your candidacy.

Essay 3: What will the people in your Cluster be pleasantly surprised to learn about you?  (250 words maximum)

A new addition to the CBS application, this question asks applicants to reveal something of interest about their backgrounds.  Though there are myriad potential topics to discuss here, applicants should consider the balance of subjects they have covered across their other essays and to choose a topic that provides new insight into their overall candidacy. For example, if the majority of content in the previous essays is focused on your professional life and accomplishments, this would be an opportunity to showcase and highlight your extracurricular passions or interests.  Although not directly requested, applicants would be wise to comment on why the particular achievement/trait/interest they share would be a pleasant surprise and valuable to their cluster as well as the CBS community at large.

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